What is Readers’ Advisory? The Musings and Challenges as a Lib Tech Student

Seven months ago, if you had asked me what “readers’ advisory” meant, I would have given you an ever so slightly confused look and awkwardly tried to fake an answer. It wasn’t until I was introduced to this group that I gained some much needed knowledge and professional insight around the topic. After learning what RA is all about, the terminology almost seems too obvious and it warrants an “Ohhhhh! Duh!” response. It’s so prevalent in my daily life that I can’t fathom how it took me so long to get acquainted with a formal definition. I constantly make recommendations in the bookstore I work at, review novels on Goodreads, reblog book images on Tumblr, rave about new reads to friends, and share shelfies on Instagram. But what does this all mean to my studies and my professional development? And why did it take me so long to get familiar with a term that embodies one of the aspects I’m most passionate about in the library field?

With my second year at Langara’s Lib Tech program on the horizon, there’s still so much to learn, and I do wonder how much (or how little) of it will be readers’ advisory related. More importantly, how can I help foster a stronger interest for it within my program so we can be equipped with the knowledge and skills to be resourceful and insightful with our advising. As the program’s namesake implies, much of the learning is focused on the technical aspects of the field. One of the primary benefits of the program is the emphasis on practical experience via the coursework and practicums. And while many of my peers have aspirations to work in areas outside of public libraries, I would like to think that we all enjoy reading and discussing books to a certain extent. I was fortunate enough to spend my first year practicum at VPL’s Information Services department where I was able to get some hands on experience developing my RA skills. As a result, I have to consider my peers who did not have similar opportunities and how can we tailor a shared interest in reading into a professional skill set?

In first year, we did cover some of the digital tools utilized for RA via an introduction to library 2.0 (but without explicitly discussing RA as a whole). Moreover, I know that readers’ advisory is briefly covered in a second year reference services course. But I feel like that’s not quite enough. Whenever I have mentioned readers’ advisory as a concept or in relation to this interest group, the aforementioned slightly confused face is a popular reaction. So how I do combat that reaction and build a stronger interest in the topic?

One of the main challenges that I’ve come across is how to get my peers interested in attending RA in a Day, especially if they may be unfamiliar with RA in its technical terminology. While it’s something that I plan to heavily advertise as the school year kicks off, I want to ensure that my instructors are also promoting it as an opportunity for professional development. Perhaps, I can organize an information session to get students interested, especially those in their first year of the program so their interest can build earlier on. Or maybe the program can sponsor some student attendees. I am also floating around the possibility of trying to host a department-based club/group or reading round table of sorts to get my peers discussing books and practicing our skill sets in a fun (a.k.a. non-academic pressure filled) environment.  

While this blog post may have been filled with questions I don’t quite know how to answer, it’s allowed me to think about the goals I want to set up to help build a better foundation and appreciation for readers’ advisory within the lib tech program. Any tips and tricks are greatly appreciated and more importantly, how did you get familiar with/interested in readers’ advisory while attending school?

Stephanie Hong is a second year student at Langara’s Library and Information Technology Program

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